Patriotism, at times, demands odd sacrifices from Americans. During WWI, it asked for peach pits -- and lots of them.
In this photo, taken on a September 1918 day in Boston, a proud military officer stands tall on top of a pile of something that would save thousands of lives on European battle fronts -- peach pits. Yes, peach pits.
The perfected gas masks used by both sides contained a chamber filled with a specially prepared charcoal. Peach puts were collected by the millions in all the belligerent countries to make this charcoal, and other vegetable substances of similar density were also used. Anti-gas chemicals were mixed with the charcoal. The wearer of the mask breathed entirely thorough the mouth, gripping a rubber mouthpiece while his nose was pinched shut by a clamp attached to the mask.
In training, soldiers were required to hold their breath for six seconds while the mask was being adjusted. It was explained to them that four breaths of the deadly chlorine gas was sufficient to kill; the first breath produced a spasm of the glottis; the second brought mental confusion and delirium; the third produced unconsciousness; and the fourth, death.